Central American 'caravan' women and children enter US, defying Trump

AN YSIDRO PORT OF ENTRY (Reuters) - Eight women and children from a caravan of hundreds of Central American migrants have sought asylum in the United States after officials allowed them entry from Mexico, fueling hope among their companions who remain camped outside the border crossing.

Gathering people along the way, the caravan set off a month ago on a 2,000 mile trek across Mexico to the U.S. border, drawing attention from the U.S. media after President Donald Trump took to Twitter to demand such groups not be granted entry and urging for stronger immigration laws.

His administration’s hands are tied, however, by international rules obliging the United States to accept asylum applications. Most in the caravan said they were fleeing death threats, extortion and violence from powerful street gangs.

Dozens of members of the caravan slept in the open for a second cold desert night in the surroundings of the busy San Ysidro port of entry, after pumping fists and cheering the news late on Monday that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had opened the gate to eight women and children.

Those left behind said they would continue their sit-in until they were at least allowed to recount their stories to border officials and try to convince them that it was unsafe to go home. The caravan swelled to 1,500 people at one point but has since dwindled to a few hundred.

“We crossed the whole of Mexico,” said Angel Caceres, who said he fled Honduras with his five-year-old son after his brother and nephew were murdered and his mother beaten and raped. They would stay, he said, “until the last person is in, as long as it takes.”

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Central American migrants traveling in 'caravan'
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Central American migrants traveling in 'caravan'

Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, gather at a makeshift centre of Mexico's National Institute of Migration to register, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018.

(REUTERS/Henry Romero)

Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, are seen after spending the night at a sports centre in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Henry Romero)

Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, sleep at a sports centre in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, sleep underneath a blanket at a sports field in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, board a bus bound to Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, are seen on board a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, walk to the bus station to take a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, gather to board a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A man from Honduras, part of a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, carries his belongings before taking a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, walk to the bus station to take a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, get ready to take a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A Central American migrant, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, looks at a mobile phone while resting at a sports field in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. Picture taken April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A child, part of a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, peeks from underneath a blanket after waking up at a sports field in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, sleep at a sports centre in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Children, part of a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, sleep at a sports centre in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A Central American migrant, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, rest at a sports field, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A Central American migrant, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, plays with a child at a sports field, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A man stands near a boiling pot as Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, gather at a sports field, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, rest at a sports field, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, rest at a sports centre, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, stand in line to register at a makeshift centre of Mexico's National Institute of Migration, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
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It was not clear when more of the group would be allowed to make their asylum bids. A CBP spokeswoman said the port of entry was congested with other undocumented immigrants, and that the caravan members might have to wait in Mexico temporarily.

The majority of asylum claims by Central Americans are ultimately unsuccessful, resulting in detention and deportation. The Trump administration says many claims are fake, aided by legal loopholes.

Vice-President Mike Pence has accused the caravan’s organizers of convincing people to leave their homes to advance an “open borders” agenda.

Only two of the dozens of people in the caravan who spoke to Reuters over the past month said they were aware of the caravan’s existence before they left home. They said it had not played a role in their decision to flee what they described as appalling conditions.

Asylum seekers must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution at home, most often from a state entity. Central Americans fare badly in such claims because the state is rarely seen as directly responsible for the life threatening situations they leave behind.

U.S. border authorities said in a statement at the weekend that some people associated with the caravan were caught trying to slip through the border fence.

Trump on Monday railed against a system that may see some of the caravan members freed in the United States until their cases are resolved, because a shortage of beds at detention centers and rules that limit how long women with children can be held.

“Catch and release is ridiculous. If they touch our property, if they touch our country, essentially you catch them and you release them into our country. That’s not acceptable to anybody, so we need a change in the law,” he said.

Reporting by Delphine Schrank; Writing and additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel in Mexico City; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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